October 29, 2020 marked a cold evening in Fort Worth, Texas, as residents bundled up in cars parked throughout the Coyote Drive-In Theater to celebrate Fort Worth’s 35-year anniversary with Reggio Emilia, Italy. The evening began with a special video message from Mayor Betsy Price and Reggio’s Mayor Luca Vecchi shown on the big screen. To cap off the evening, the crowd was then treated to pizza and the 2003 film – The Italian Job.
Our friends in Reggio also held a celebration of their own in Italy for this long and fruitful relationship. In a recent letter from Mayor Vecchi to Mayor Price, Vecchi made these comments:
“In a challenging period like this, we strongly believe that international exchanges and collaborations are an important lever for the relaunch of our community, economy and the values we believe in. I wish you a happy anniversary to you hoping to see you next year.”
35 years ago, Fort Worth Mayor Bob Bolen and Reggio Emilia Mayor Ugo Benassi signed the official documents to establish Fort Worth’s first sister city relationship with Reggio Emilia. The Reggio City Chair at that time, Mary Palko, then took the reigns and the first inbound exchange took place when 135 runners from Reggio Emilia participated in the Cowtown Marathon. Later that year Fort Worth Sister Cities received its first national recognition – the Readers Digest award for Best New Program – and that’s how it all began.
As our very first sister city, Reggio Emilia holds a special place in our hearts. Originally a Roman fortress situated in the Apennine foothills of Northern Italy, this historic city is home to spectacular cathedrals and palazzos dating back to the 12th century, the Municipal Theater and the famous Parmigiano Reggiano cheese factory.
Our relationship with this amazing city offers equally amazing opportunities for Fort Worth’s citizen diplomats. In addition to exchanges featuring the daily life and culture of Italy, Italian cooking and language classes and visits to the nearby city of Florence, the program is recognized for developing unique first-ever exchanges, including:
- Tricolore Youth Sports Games, a youth-based version of the Olympics for which Fort Worth is the sole United States participant
- A Handicap Life Skills Symposium
- International Wheelchair Basketball Tournaments
- Annual student exchanges
- Smithsonian’s U.S. Tour of Reggio Emilia’s education model
- Cutting and quarter horse training, breeding and competition
- Stage, craft and performance arts training programs
- Culinary, hotel, and professional internships
- Fashion and artisan industry programs
You can view a compilation of several short videos from participants and leaders of many exchanges and programs over the last 35 years between these two cities here.